The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
Again this year legislators are making an attempt to strengthen the Sunshine Law. That’s the one that requires public bodies to hold open meetings and allows citizens access to public records. Currently, many agencies look for ways to evade the requirements; a test by the State Auditor found barely half the agencies tested complied fully with the open records requirements. Penalties for violations are so paltry and the burden of proof so high that violators almost never have to pay for their malfeasance.
One of the reforms proposed is to mandate that agencies charge no more than 10 cents a page for copying records. Right now, agencies can charge whatever they can get away with, something that can severely restrict access. A few years ago, the Greater Warrensburg Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau (GWACC&VC) charged $1 per page for tourism tax information I’d requested; at $100 a whack it gets expensive to find out what’s going on.
Who opposes strengthening the public’s right to know? Organizations run by those who’d just as soon we not know what’s going on, like the Missouri Municipal League. Now, I’ve never had any problem getting information from the City, but there are so many organizations out there subject to the law. All our elected bodies and boards – including school boards, water districts, and the CMSU board. Appointed committees and boards are also included, as are “quasi-public governmental bodies,” private organizations whose primary purpose is to enter into contracts with public bodies.
The current bill is SB1020; I certainly hope that Senator Caskey and Representive Pearce will support the needed reforms and improve public access to public business.
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